Alexa and AI

By on Nov 30, 2017 in Technology

As the popularity of Artificial Intelligence is on the rise and corporate giants such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple are racing to develop the best commercial AI product, the focus has shifted from humans being more intelligent like machines, to developing machines to act more like humans.Alexa

This past July, Amazon acquired a Santa Barbara startup called Graphiq, previously known as FindTheBest, for an estimated 50 million dollars in hopes of using the company’s data analysis and search engine technology to make their digital AI assistant, named Alexa, even smarter.

Alexa was first implemented in 2014 with the introduction of Amazon’s Echo, but has come a long way since then by developing complexity that far surpasses its competitors such as Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant. The reason why Alexa has become such an advanced AI is due to the integrations that were built into the voice-controlled platform. For example, users can apply a skill to Alexa, which allows the AI to do various actions such as setting the oven temperature or turn on lights in your home with a simple command.

There are currently about 250 or more products offered on that can be integrated with Alexa skills, but there are over 4,000 other products from other manufacturers that can also include the function.

Smart Cars get Smarter

In addition, Alexa’s API, or application program interface, allows it to integrate seamlessly into the automotive industry. Just recently, Amazon has already created partnerships with automotive manufacturers such as BMW, Hyundai, and Ford.

While each car manufacturer will vary in how they will integrate Alexa into their product designs, the voice controlled command system that Alexa offers would remain the same across all manufacturers. For example, simple commands such as opening the car trunk, or asking for directions to a destination, could easily be applied to the smart vehicle.

However, there will be a new feature released later this year, that will allow more complicated actions. Timur Pulathaneli, a partner of Ford Motor Company, says “If you are coming home late, you can ask Alexa to switch on your porch light while you’re coming close to your home, or even open the garage door.”

Alexa is Always Listening

Many critics of Alexa have a main concern about privacy issues—Obviously the digital home assistant is always listening to commands that the user will say, but what risk does this constitute for privacy in general?

On the other hand, there have been cases where Alexa’s feature of “always listening” could be beneficial. One such case details how Alexa dials 911 during a domestic violence episode in a New Mexico home, successfully calling the police to arrive just in time.

However, there are defensive measures if an Alexa user is worried about privacy issues. You can mute Alexa with the button located right on top of the device when you are currently not using it, which will shut off the “always listening” microphone until it is turned back on. You can also tighten your personal preferences for privacy in a settings page that is located online.

The Future of AI

While Artificial Intelligence certainly seems like a concept straight out of science fiction, developers of Alexa are seeing the eventual implementation of AI into daily life. According to Charlie Kindel, the Director of Smart Home at Amazon, the simplicity of the AI experience is most important. To help envision this concept, Kindel says, “It’s nighttime and you’re going to bed—you can dig through the couch and find the remote of the TV, or you can just say, ‘Alexa turn off the TV.’ It’s those super simple scenarios that are delighting customers.”